Opportunity: Captured?

Earlier today I attended the ‘Opportunity: Captured?’ event and exhibition that I was invited along to through my work with the university outreach programme. I was not really sure what to expect when I entered the Nottingham Contemporary, however I was faced with an exhibition that featured images which were among dozens submitted to the Centre for Student and Community Engagement.

Films, artwork and photographs capture what ‘opportunity’ means to students, staff, pupils and friends of Nottingham Trent University and therefore I really enjoyed going along to show my support. Everyone utilises university differently to access a range of opportunities; I personally have valued getting involved in as many younger pupil led workshops and sessions, as well as throwing myself fully into getting the most out of my degree as I can.

The showcase really did display the differing interpretations of the question around opportunity and how this has had a positive impact on the individuals. Themes included female empowerment, trips abroad, how university has helped after graduating and fostering creativity in activities such as dance. It also opened my eyes to the opportunities NTU offer to students not within the university, including NTU Summer School and Art Clubs.

I did not previously know much about NTU’s innovative work on social mobility and therefore the exhibition was a great visual and interactive way to raise awareness around this work. I now realise that the uni was first to sign the Social Mobility Pledge and has since been selected to co-run a national evidence centre to determine ‘what works’ in social mobility in higher education.

Although the event was only in the Nottingham Contemporary, I feel that it is a great way to get students involved in a positive movement that will encourage future bodies of students to join NTU.

Rachel

Dissident Lines by Lis Rhodes

Today I wandered around the new Nottingham Contemporary exhibition, Dissident Lines. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this exhibition, but it certainly was not what I roughly had in my mind.

I was presented with a series of mainly black and white films that focused on shape, light and movement. However, the showcase was not just restricted to film; her practice also crosses into installation, sound art, performance and writing.

I did enjoy the piece, Light Music, in gallery 2. Two large screens were positioned adjacent to each other, beaming light across the room. The audience was invited to immerse themselves in the light, image and sound that I now appreciate was underrepresented women composers in the European musical tradition. The shadows cast where individuals wandered between the two light projectors added another layer of interest; observing how the image was distorted by the human form.

I came out feeling slightly disturbed which I think was as a result of the borderline creepy soundtrack which accompanied the films and the fact that to enter each gallery, you were required to find the entrance through a black curtain with very little light to help guide you. In one space, I didn’t want to move forward as I was very unsure as to whether or not I would walk straight into someone.

Having said this, it was interesting to witness her use of lines and how they were taken out of their usual conformed straight parallel form. There was a clear link between each piece, despite them being created over a 50 year period. Rhodes therefore has a very distinctive style and knows her strengths and how to manipulate a simple line. This showed me the power of image, sound and light and how much of an impact these can have on the audience when used optimally.

Rachel

Laura McCafferty – Lakeside Arts

Today I visited Laura McCafferty’s exhibition at the Lakeside Arts gallery. I was exploring the gallery’s website and this showcase appealed to me; it was portrayed as a colourful display of fabrics. This was certainly mirrored in the physical space.

Although I was expecting the exhibition to be larger, I enjoyed closely observing the four pieces that were on display. As a result of their only being few elements to the exhibition, it reinforced the quality of each piece and made me appreciate the craft that would have gone into the construction of each one. They managed to fill the empty space as a result of their large scale. Even though they were all a substantial size, a hierarchy still existed, with the largest – entire wall piece – demanding the most attention.

I really enjoyed witnessing McCafferty’s interdisciplinary approach combining installation and textiles to ‘subtly mess with what’s expected’. The brightly-coloured, boldly-patterned textiles suggest the artist finds pleasure in repetition, which I admit that I also find joy in the repeated process. Cutting and sticking, chopping and piecing together means one thing leads to another, making the process purposeful and enjoyable.

I have since explored and followed her Instagram page and discovered that each small panel was sewn together, using hand embroidery to form larger squares, and it was these that combined together to create the whole mosaic fabric wall. This showed me how much construction went in to putting this all together.

Rachel

Eye on Design Magazine

I first came across Eye of Design on ISSUU so I was pleased when this month’s Stack subscription was a physical publication of their most recent edition.

The front cover is a very successful way of drawing the viewer in. The layered cut-out eye, building the overall image over three separate pages is a playful touch that has immediate impact. This showed me that front covers do not have to explicitly state the title or have any text on at all. The bold imagery and page design is a lot more striking than any copy would in my opinion have been. Moving in to third year, playing with cut-out details from key pages could be very successful, adding another dimension to otherwise potentially flat pages.

The issue I received was based around the concept of ‘worth’. Although the design inside comes from a multitude of perspectives and therefore interpretations, they all have a unifying focus. I am thinking about a zine print outcome for level three and so this method of linking multiple contributions from different people could ensure that I do not provide just a narrow minded personal view of the topic. Having said this, with this method I would need make sure that everything flowed together so it didn’t appear disjointed; this is something that this magazine does really well.

Another element that I have taken away from the publication is the fact that they haven’t taken the topic literally. Yes they have explored worth in terms of the business of design, but they also dive into the human side of worth, for example what do we deem truly ‘good’ and worthy of our respect? How do we place value and worth on ourselves?

With regard to the latter, my personal view of my own self-worth ebbs and flows. I am currently trying hard to celebrate and share my smallest achievements – I usually focus on what I haven’t done, forgetting everything I have completed. I found myself just yesterday getting downhearted when I saw an Instagram story from someone on the course who had presented their self-promotion trials in a really interesting and tactile way. Valuing myself and appreciating that although my work is different, it does not mean it is any less successful is something I really need to get my head around before moving into third year.

Rachel

Castle Fine Art Stamford

I went home for the weekend and my parents and I took a visit to the new Castle Fine Art space on the Stamford high street. We went on the day of the Lawrence Coulson grand opening so there was a definite buzz about the gallery – champagne was being given and the sales experts were very well dressed and welcoming. It was great to see paintings coming to life in front of your eyes.

They certainly instilled their passion in every customer who walked through the doors while we were in there. We were very much first-time browsers; however the gallery obviously attracted the more seasoned collector. The gallery appeared to be designed with comfort and ambiance in mind – with the main aim of getting guests to stay longer and consider a purchase. The space has plush sofas and private viewing rooms that equip the customer with everything they need to find their perfect piece.

Similarly, the sofas also make the space feel homely and invite the guests to imagine themselves looking at the art in the comfort of their own home. The pieces that I saw would certainly make a statement in a home and therefore I feel that if the customer had an empty space, the home could be built around the artwork, making it unique to the individual.

What I think worked really well was the fact the furniture makes the viewer notice the art, with each piece making an individual impact, no matter the size. It also allowed the contrast between each artist’s work even more evident.

I was drawn to Coulson’s work in particular. During A Level Art, my preferred media was oil paint as I enjoyed seemly blending the colours together. Lawrence uses a simple pencil line to map out the composition, and then he applies oil paint before blending it with his fingers and again with a fine brush. Although layering is used, this is not evident to the eye; it appears so smooth with no brush strokes visible and creates an effortless finish.

Rachel

Nottingham Contemporary – Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

The word for world is forest.

Image result for Nottingham Contemporary - Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

Image result for Nottingham Contemporary - Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

Daniel Steegmann Mangrané looks at how diverse mediums and technologies can represent aspects of the Mata Atlântica.

Mata Atlântica, I now know is a rainforest stretching along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Steegmann Mangrané provides a study into how environments can be portrayed, and in doing so, highlights the impossibilities of representation.

The Gallery that I enjoyed looking at was Living Thoughts (2019), a showcase of glass and epiphytic plants. Mata Atlântica is rich in biodiversity and is one of the most important biodiverse areas on Earth. However I have learnt that it is highly endangered, with only 7% of its original surface left. These hand-blown branches which species sprouting out and attaching themselves to them could mimic the layering of different species that occur in the rainforest.

The hanging branches gave me a glimpse of the dense, natural environment. The installation was so simple and minimal, hanging from the ceiling but surrounded my white walls. There was nothing to distract from the beautiful branches, each as intricate and unique as the next. The work did not need any dressing; it spoke loud enough for itself and had an impact on me.

It opened my eyes to how complex the environmental eco balance has become with environments being subjected to conflicting pressures, e.g. economic, ecological, geographic. It made me rethink the beauty of nature that is so often overlooked in our busy fast paced lives.

In my self-promotion project, I would like to combine the natural world with hand-crafted elements to create a business card and visual identity that captures attention but in a subtle way.

Rachel

Palm Oil and the Pursuit of Beauty

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The section of the Stack Magazine, It’s Freezing in LA!, that I was most interested reading was the chapter on Palm Oil and the Pursuit of Beauty.

As a consumer, I have made the conscious effort to avoid food products with Palm Oil in. However before reading this, I was naive to palm oil being used in beauty products. Reports continue to be released with the cosmetic industry disappointing consumers with their unethical practices.

I now realise that palm oil is in most lipsticks, and its production is increasing the destruction of native areas of biodiversity landscapes. I am amazed that more than 27 million hectares on the Earth’s surface is currently comprised of plantations of palm oil trees alone.

As a society, we are willing to do a lot in pursuit of what we perceive visual beauty is but I feel that it is now we can also express our identity through empowerment. Commonly used raw materials are directly contributing to the environment’s destruction but we have the individual power to start doing something about this. I believe that the cosmetics industry is only one piece of an environmentally destructive puzzle. But as consumers of beauty products, demand lies in our power so we as a collective can start a change.

Organic makeup could be the way forward. Lush seem to be ahead of the game for this. They have phased out its use of palm oil and are experimenting with packaging free stores, which I was excited by when I visited in Berlin.

I understand that prices are determined by the cost of the raw materials; however, for some people the expensive more ethical products are just not accessible to them at their current premium price. This is why I hope that brands are looking at how they can cut their costs and pass these savings on to the consumer. Without lower prices, I really don’t feel that the large proportion of consumers will switch their already loved products.

Education here will be key. If increasing numbers of cosmetic wearers become aware of the extent of the problem, there could be a gradual shift away from products damaging the natural world. I am making a choice to buy less, but buy better, saving my money for quality products from brands I trust. Furthermore, I am absolutely sure that many females have far more beauty products than they actually use.

I now realise that beauty is killing the environment and I will no longer turn a blind eye to the ingredients included or the brands’ attitudes towards the growing issue.

Rachel

It’s Freezing in LA!

Image result for it's freezing in la

This month’s Stack Magazine was an independent magazine about climate change. I was really pleased when this came as although I enjoy getting magazines on topics that I wouldn’t select myself, it is also great when one comes and it is something I am very interested in.

I loved how impassioned the publication was, dedicated to raising awareness of the effects of climate change in a visual and informative way. I liked the layout of the magazine with key points in red in a large font and separate to the main body of text. This is something I want to take forward when producing my visual reports – highlighting the key take-away points from each page.

They have looked at a specific reference to inspire this issue – wildfires that ravaged California last year. This has reinforced the importance of supporting ideas with cultural references and looking in other sectors for inspiration. This is shown through the consistent camouflage-style graphics that run throughout.

The magazine gave me a fresh perspective on climate change. I have been often put off from reading around the subject as too often environmental discussion uses remote, technical scientific language, or too heavily focused on activism. They use accessible vocabulary which is another point that I aim to keep in mind going forward.

I liked to read the two sides of an argument – engaging with the challenge of climate change, but also focusing on making a positive impact. Although eye-opening, it is also optimistic. This magazine especially has made me reflect on the importance of portraying different perspectives about an idea.

Rachel

Places to Visit in Berlin

Alexa Shopping Mall

Located in Alexanderplatz, this shopping centre was huge with a food court, large supermarket and lots of fashion and beauty stores. We found this very useful when we wanted to buy fruit and snacks to take away with us.

Berliner Fersehturm

We paid to go up to the top of the Fersehturm and I would recommend this to anyone. We got to see a 360 degree view of Berlin which was breathtaking. There was plenty of space to look around and take photos and also read the information around the outside describing all of the landmarks that are evident at that section of the observation deck. It was rather peaceful up there and I enjoyed looking out over Berlin, identifying all of the places we had already explored.

East Side Gallery

Although it was freezing walking the Berlin Wall, the longest open-air gallery, it was stunning. I loved seeing all of the different interpretations of art and the unique perspectives of the world. In more than a hundred paintings artists commented on the political changes in 1989/90. I enjoyed seeing Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss which to me today promotes acceptance of love in any shape or form and the love locks on the gate inside the ball were also effective.

Molecule Man

The Molecule Men are positioned on the Spree River near the Oberbaum Bridge. I was amazed at the size of the sculptures: thirty metres high. They represent the intersection of the then three districts Treptow, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. I felt that this represented finding wholeness and unity within the world, which is still questionable today.

Berlin Cathedral

The Dome was only €5 for students and allowed us access to the cathedral and viewing dome. The cathedral interior was breathtaking, especially the ceiling of the dome with its grand gold decorative designs. After climbing the 270 narrow steps, we were able to enjoy the 360° panoramic view. We spotted the ‘Rotes Rathaus’ city hall, the Humboldt Forum, Museum Island, the synagogue and the television tower. The River Spree could also be seen. It was great to take some time to take in the surroundings from a new perspective.

Reishstag Building

The roof terrace and dome were stunning, so open and light. We were amazed that this experience was free; however make sure you book online at least a couple of days in advance. We were given a headset guided tour as we walked up the spiral staircase in the dome, as well as taking in the spectacular views of the parliamentary and government district and Berlin’s sights. The mirrored centre piece of the dome was beautiful, acting not only as a reflector to avoid bright glaring light, but also a statement.

Brandenburg Gate

I love that the gate is now a symbol of peace and unity. Although there were quite a few people enjoying the landmark, we were still able to get photos in front of the gate and appreciate the historic architecture.

Checkpoint Charlie

I was surprised that this location was in the middle of the road on a small island; however it is worth seeing to appreciate the history. The wooden barrack was guarded by a couple of US Army representatives and a copy of the original border sign is positioned a couple of metres in front of this.

Mall of Berlin

Mall of Berlin is another shopping mall that is modern and bright. There are so many shops that it almost becomes a maze inside. The architecture is also beautiful with very high ceilings.

Bikini Berlin

Although Bikini Berlin is located in a heritage-listed building complex at Berlin’s Zoo, it is modern and forward thinking inside. The exclusive shops and pop-ups located down the centre are pushing innovation and offer a personal approach. The food court is no different. There were stands for pancakes, curries, salad, noodles, burgers, etc. The food court at Bikini Berlin which had been designed with the Instagram generation in mind; everything is photo ready with greenery and interesting seating throughout.

Kaufhaus Des Westens

I wanted to go to at least one department store while I was in Berlin. This one was particularly for luxury goods, however they did also have some more affordable brands. The floors featured beauty, fashion, food, home and technology. I enjoyed looking at the KaDeWe & Vogue Vote for Fashion which showcased work from emerging talent. I also liked to see the different interpretations and different individuals’ styles. The designs ranged from minimal to extravagant, but each looked as if it required a very precise skill to make. In the technology section, I noticed the world’s first temperature control mug where the temperature of a hot drink can be controlled by your phone. I was amazed by this; customising temperature of a tea or coffee wasn’t something I expected to see for a while. There were also glasses that took untra HD photographs and videos which also showed me that the future of technology is in our clothes as well as technology.

Rachel

Lincoln Christmas Market 2018

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Today I took the short train journey from Nottingham to Lincoln to visit the Christmas market. I have never been to this market before and therefore I was excited to see what it comprised.

The medieval castle and cathedral is the perfect backdrop for the Christmas Market. The beautiful cobbled streets were filled with the traditional Christmas Market stalls – over 200 of them. The medieval square and surrounding area was the perfect place for the market. It really inserted a sense of culture into the market experience.

I knew it was popular; however I wasn’t expecting the sheer amount of people wandering round the stalls. I didn’t even know there were fairground rides there either. There was no real one way system and the stewards/stewardesses were doing their best to direct people but in a grid lock, there was nothing much they could have done. Once it got moving again, people were able to get where they needed to be.

I headed back down Steep Hill and sat and had some lunch in the Cosy Club. I have always wanted to eat here as there is not one where I am from. There was a whole separate vegan menu which was a surprise to me – there was so many options that I didn’t know what to choose. In the end, I opted for the vegan falafel and hummus sandwich with sweet potato fries. This was delicious; I devoured it all. I definitely want to return and try out some of their other vegan options.

I did enjoy the festivities; however it was too busy for me. I couldn’t look properly at any of the stalls. I think next time I come, I’ll try it go in the week so there would hopefully be slightly less people. Having said this, it was great to see so many people coming to support the market and getting into the Christmas spirt.

Rachel

Peak District Yoga Retreat Day

I was worried about going on this day event because I was very conscious of the amount of work I had to do on the current project. However, I am very thankful that I went and took a day out for myself to take my mind off, what seems like, my never ending to-do-list.

It will was a full day of fun, all things yoga and care for our beautiful planet in what I believe is one of the most treasured areas in the Midlands, The Peak District. I loved exploring a new place that I had never previously been before; it was so picturesque and scenic.

We started and concluded the day with a yoga practice in the beautiful St Margaret’s Hall on Chapel Hill where the views were amazing. The first was an energising flow to get warm for the walk ahead and the final session was a slower, more relaxing stretch practice.

We walked through the trees, up woodland steps and over rocks, stopping to eat lunch on a fallen tree. We all shared veggie nibbles which made us feel more like a community. We therefore worked our body, mind and spirit, giving back to our precious world by cleaning up Black Rocks. We each collected rubbish from the woodlands; we managed to fill four large sacks – two with rubbish and two recycling. I was shocked by the amount of litter we saw. The Black Rocks are supposed to be a place to go to appreciate breathtaking views, not to witness litter over the surface of the rocks. It seems to me that even at such a beautiful location, people still have little respect for their environment and surroundings.

Walking and cleaning with like-minded caring people made the day even more beneficial. It really felt like together we started of something amazing, doing our part in reducing the plastic and litter pollution in our countryside, which is easily carried on in our own homes and daily lives.

I learnt so much more about yoga and its connection to the world around us, also practising connecting with the breath. My mind definitely tried to wander to what I needed to get done when I returned, however, for the most part I was able to focus on the now and appreciate where I was.

What I loved most was the positivity of everyone and how effectively strangers at the start of the day, we were all intermingled by the end. The colours of the leaves were also unlike anything I have seen for a long time – they were a golden amber colour that warmed the landscape.

The main take-away from the day was the importance of feeling good in our bodies and minds is just as important as giving back to the beauty this world gives us. Although it did start to rain at one point, it made me appreciate the unexpected nature of the environment and natural soundscape that can be create with droplets, the crunching of autumn leaves and the rustle in the trees.

Rachel

Good Grief, Charlie Brown!

The exhibition at Somerset house celebrated all things Snoopy and the enduring power of Peanuts.

The space illustrated the history of the iconic comic: the much-loved cartoon. Peanuts is widely acknowledged as one of the most popular and influential comic strips of all time. I didn’t realise before that it focused entirely on a society of young children.

The ongoing storylines and the cast of colourful characters gave a voice to all the joys, vulnerabilities and anxieties of life which I found very relatable and honest, but in a fun sort of way.

Walking round the exhibition, I recognised that Peanuts addressed themes including war, mental health, racism, feminism and gender-fluidity, which all seem as pertinent today as they were when they first appeared in newspapers half a century ago. I wasn’t expecting there to be such a broad spectrum of themes. The comics crossed social and economic boundaries, and stand as a testament to the power of popular arts.

I loved seeing all of the illustrations and how such simple line drawings could become such an iconic series. My favourite pieces were Mel Brimfield, Remembrance of Things Past which recognised the psychological themes employed in Peanuts and the recognition of self-help in today’s society; “I do not let intermittent feeling acceptance deceive me; my work is meaningless and will not stand the test of time.” It is themes like this that makes them so accessible to a large audience. I also like the, “Happiness is…” bunting which just shows that everyone has their own definitions of happiness and it is about finding your own life’s bittersweet experiences.

I enjoyed the fact that the space was interactive with installations including the Snoopy Cinema, where we sat on the bean bags, viewing Peanuts TV specials. There was also a Snoopy drawing station where you could create a comic scene which engages all age demographics and encourages individuals to create their own stories, sparking imagination. I enjoyed sitting down for a couple of minutes and drawing.

I didn’t grow up reading the comic strips themselves, however after Good Grief, Charlie Brown! I’m aware of what I missed and the extent to which these were a massive part of many people’s childhood. The society of young children suggested to me that it is the up-coming generations that can really have an impact on today’s society and help to move thinking forward.

I have learnt that the more interactive a space is and the more vibrancy that is injected, such as colour, visuals and interesting use of space, the more engaging the experience will be, encouraging guests to remain longer.

Rachel